Revitalization inspires involvement

Humboldt’s downtown revival is the envy of Southeast Kansas. Key to its success are vision and a can-do attitude.



June 18, 2021 - 12:32 PM

Alana and Paul Cloutier, and Alana’s mother, Diana Holmes, in downtown Humboldt. The trio are on Bridge Street, a hub of renovations. On a hot and cloudless Friday morning, the Cloutiers remarked how nice it will be when the trees lining the sidewalk will one day provide shade. Over the past five years the city has redone the sidewalks surrounding the square, including adding trees. B&W Trailer Hitches and Monarch Cement contributed generously to the project. Earlier this month, Holmes and her husband, Joe Jackson, moved to Humboldt from northern California. REGISTER/SUSAN LYNN

As the second-largest town in Allen County, Humboldt is working hard to prove to its big sister that smaller is better.

Admittedly, this is the perspective of an Iolan who is envious of Humboldt’s revitalized downtown.

At any rate, it’s a challenge Iola should gladly take on. 

Humboldt’s downtown revival is the envy of Southeast Kansas. And yes, local benefactors Joe and Janie Works of B&W Trailer Hitches deserve great credit for helping finance much of the reconstruction, as does Walter Wulf of Monarch Cement.

But it also takes a can-do attitude. Even more importantly, it takes a vision, typically the purview of local government. In Humboldt’s case, it not only has a forward-thinking city council but also the local non-profit A Bolder Humboldt, the organization responsible for much of the city’s renovations and activities. 

Together, these factors have made the little town of 1,800 a recreation destination, be it for shopping, camping, biking or dining — things that not only draw visitors, but boost citizens’ morale.

Relative newcomer Paul Cloutier — a first-generation Kansan — now serves on the Humboldt city council.

“I like their attitude,” he said of fellow members, noting their default response is to welcome new ideas.

Side note: The biggest compliment to a town or state is not how many generations their citizens go back, but how many newcomers want to call it home.

IOLA’S larger size comes with advantages.

Most notably, it has four times the sales tax revenues of Humboldt. For 2020, Iola netted $1,328,481, compared to Humboldt’s $292,596.

The larger revenue base also means a smaller sales tax.

Iolans are charged 8.75% in total sales taxes. Here’s the breakdown: State of Kansas, 6.5%; Allen County, 1.25%; City of Iola, 1%. Humboldt charges 1.75% in sales taxes in addition to the county and state rates, bringing theirs to 9.5%. 

By virtue of its size Iola also has been able to attract fast-food restaurants. No, they’re not gourmet, but oftentimes they fit the bill, and are undoubtedly popular. 

Iola also has benefited from “angels” such as Thomas H. Bowlus whose estate led to the creation of our fine arts center. A decade before his passing in 1960, Bowlus donated land for the first Allen County Hospital.